Next week, the US Supreme Court will hear verbal arguments on two issues that could drastically alter the state’s higher education system. Depending on the judgment, it will be decided if Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the University of North Carolina (UNC) in Chapel Hill are still permitted to consider race when selecting which applicants to accept to their institutions.
Two lawsuits were charged against these universities for their partial and discriminative treatment of students’ race as a factor in deciding their admissions to the universities. Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), a student organization, has taken initiative to bring the prejudicial admission process of the universities to the notice of the court.
The court’s rulings may prevent academic institutions all throughout the United States from pursuing affirmative action practices to change their admission system.
Studies have proven that certain universities, especially the prominent ones, will find it a tiresome task to admit students without considering their race. According to Julie Park, a scholar from the University of Maryland in College Park whose research centers on racial equality in higher education, this will have an impact on who is and is not able to enter particular occupations and may or may not have a seat at the table.
The lawsuits filed in this regard overturn a ruling the Supreme court had made in 2003. In Grutter v. Bollinger, a white woman named Barbara Grutter claimed that the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor had disqualified her from admission as a result of the use of race as a criterion.
She had claimed that the practice was against the Fourteenth Amendment and a section of the Civil Rights Act of 1954. It forbids racial discrimination by programs receiving federal support. The universities come under this category.
However, the court had quite strangely left the choice in this regard to the universities provided they conduct the process in a holistic way. This meant that race could still be considered a major deciding factor. The court also determined that a university’s efforts to increase diversity on campus may include taking race into account and that it was absolutely constitutional to do so.
SFFA has come forward to oppose this holistic approach adopted by Harvard and UNC-Chapel Hill. According to the SFFA’s court petition, Grutter v. Bollinger was erroneous the day it was pronounced and has engendered serious damaging ramifications.
Is It True That Affirmative Actions Increase Diversity?
After states like California and Michigan outlawed racial preferences in admissions to universities, affirmative action’s contribution to enriching diversity in higher education became really apparent. There was a significant drop in the number of black undergraduate students in the universities. Although it isn’t flawless, affirmative action is a crucial strategy for being able to acquire and enroll a student body that is more multicultural.
Which Are The Universities That Use Affirmative Action?
Many states of the US use affirmative action. However, in eight states, namely Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Washington, it has been banned.
Most US colleges have their own admission standards formulated according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2019. Such colleges need not worry about affirmative action.
Alvin Tillery, Jr., director of the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, claims that the disputes over affirmative action revolve around a small number of selective universities with low enrollments. Many of these institutions of higher learning, like Harvard, are private and have their own self-imposed affirmative action programs.